Elizabeth Sanderson Haldane was born into a prominent Scottish family in Edinburgh and educated by tutors. She was the sister of the politician Richard Burdon Haldane, later 1st Viscount Haldane, and physiologist John Scott Haldane. As the daughter at home in Victorian times, she had the responsibility to care for her widowed mother. She took nursing courses by correspondence and entered the nursing profession. Throughout much of her adult life, she served on various regulatory and advisory boards related to nursing. She championed the cause of higher education for women and was in the forefront of the pre-World War I movement for women’s rights, which won her widespread fame.
Around 1901, she was appointed a manager of the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. She served on the Royal Commission on the Civil Service, and also became the first woman ever appointed a Justice of the Peace in Scotland. In addition to her extensive public and community service, Elizabeth Haldane studied philosophy at the University of St. Andrews, and wrote books and other publications under the name E.S. Haldane. She assisted with a translation of Hegel’s History of Philosophy in three volumes in 1892, and in 1911, together with G.R.T. Ross, she published a translation of Descartes’ Meditations on First Philosophy. Independently, she wrote several biographies and philosophy works that included The Wisdom and Religion of a German Philosopher (1897), James Frederick Ferrier (1899), Descartes: His Life and Times (1905) and George Eliot and her Times (1927). She left a volume of memoirs From One Century to Another: the Reminiscences of E.S. Haldane (1937). E.S. Haldane also successfully helped organize the rescue of the historic Sadlers’ Wells Theatre from demolition in 1914. Although she was not known for her beauty and never married, she had many important friends, including Queen Alexandra (who was known for her beauty), as well as such important literary figures as Matthew Arnold and George Meredith. She lived mainly at the beautiful family home, Cloan House, in Auchterader, Perthshire.